The UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax was set to come into force next week on April 1, 2022. From this date, any company manufacturing or importing finished plastic packaging components – empty or filled – would be charged €239 (£200) per tonne for materials containing less than 30% of recycled plastic at 10+ tonnes in a 12-month period. The tax, that had to be declared every quarter and would be collected by the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), applied to all industries using plastic packaging, including the cosmetics and personal care sector.
PCR plastic availability and quality concerns
Dr Emma Meredith, director-general of the UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), said that whilst many beauty brands were already using recycled plastics or alternative packaging materials, few were integrating more than 30% recycled content.
“There just isn’t sufficient post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic available for all industries to be able to manufacture their packaging with at least 30% PCR. And that’s not just our industry, but all industries,” Meredith told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
“It’s a shame, because the tax is coming in out of kilter with other requirements the UK government has which might encourage a better quality of PCR. And for the cosmetics industry, there’s an added requirement we have to take into account – the UK Cosmetics Regulation where the safety assessor has to consider the safety of the packaging on the cosmetic product,” she said.
The CTPA’s concern, she said, was that, not only was there an insufficient amount of PCR available for beauty and personal companies, but the available material wasn’t necessarily of good enough quality for cosmetics. And whilst industry was advancing fast in the recycling and washing of post-consumer waste, she said not enough ground had been gained yet.
Last year, personal care major Beiersdorf co-published a guidance document on the suitability of post-consumer recyclates in cosmetic grade packaging, following extensive collaborative research with manufacturing major Werner & Mertz and R&D institute The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV). Beiersdorf said it hoped the document would fuel urgently needed change.
“It’s a very interesting piece of work,” said Meredith. “And there are other organisations and consortiums doing this kind of work too, which is fantastic – it shows we are a responsible industry taking our responsibility seriously.”
In 2020, the CTPA also shared guidance on the use of recycled materials in plastic packaging that she said it was continuing to work on and adjust according to fresh innovation and ideas.
Tax may create ‘incentive’ to innovate, collaborate further
Asked what positives the upcoming UK Plastic Packaging Tax might bring to the beauty and personal care industry, she said: “I think it is, as with all taxes, a stick and a carrot. Yes, at the moment, we know we’re going to have this tax applied, but it’s an incentive to try and become even more innovative with how we go forward with our packaging and how we develop packaging that is possibly not based on plastic.”
“Packaging manufacturers have already been doing a huge amount of work, but it’s always an opportunity to look at how we do things differently. In the long run, it may be transformative,” she said.
Looking ahead, she said collaboration would be key to innovating in the plastic packaging space, along with sharing and mentoring between businesses and brands. “Collaboration and working together is a way forward, and not just within industry but with other industries,” she said – the likes of food and beverages, for example.
“…It’s about borrowing brilliance and sharing brilliance across sectors.”
Understanding supply chains and working with suppliers
Meredith said it was important beauty and personal care companies gathered evidence from entire supply chains to know whether the upcoming plastic packaging tax applied.
Thereafter, it was about working more closely with suppliers and industry trade bodies to ensure enough quality PCR material was made available “in a timely manner”, she said.